Occupied Artifact | Thesis Project

marin headlands, ca

advisor: Professor Tom diSanto

    Our culture is one structured around technological stimulus; an instantaneous stream of information infiltrates our consciousness.  This virtualization has created a shift in perception, increasingly distancing ourselves from reality and each other.  An over saturated state of awareness leaves one distracted, unable to experience life in a true and authentic manner.  Approaching architecture with a phenomenological sensitivity provides a vital ontological element for the occupant, supporting a more complete relationship to experience and self.  Advocating for a more active participation in daily life can contribute to the re-emergence of gratitude that which has become taken for granted in the everyday.  The resultant; the development a more complex interpretation of temporal and spatial awareness, a deeper state of attention, mindfulness of one's own experience and that of others, true social interaction, and a heightened appreciation for one’s environment. Phenomenology provides a much desired user contribution, a contemplative state of being that evokes the spiritual dimension of our physical environment.  Emphasizing the position of the senses and emotions alters our experience and interaction of architecture. The consciousness of time passing and renewed awareness of life generates an active dialogue with the sensual experience of place. 

    Addressing the relevance of phenomenology contributes to an architectural design that acts as an intervention, solely concerned with one’s spatial embodiment.  Technology is both an asset to our society and a hindrance as well; modern cities neglect the human body, this lack of sensory stimulation creates an imbalance and fosters alienation, and detachment. A more humanistic architectural approach places emphasis on physical and psychological comfort and experiences, implementing a set of phenomenological values concerning the user’s wellbeing, experience, and sense of place.  The coalescences of mind, body and experience strengthens one’s awareness of time and reality; the inclusive involvement provides a stable platform of perception and understanding of the world we live in; helping to bring balance,encourage active participation and positive effects on one’s wellbeing.  I propose that it is possible to create a building which incorporates these aspects and promotes an environment of mental refuge and healing. The power of spaces to create emotional change is often underestimated. The aspect of inclusion and participation is vital for the phenomenological experience, awareness of use and life within a space life generates a sensual and appreciative experience of place, reaffirming the importance of being present in the current moment. A space which encourages ritualistic actions or spiritual reflection help aid the mind in its refocus and restoration . This is achievable through the advocacy of participation, heightening the experience of the occupant and allowing their interactions to spark a spiritual response and foster profound meaning.  

    Situated on the northern side of the San Francisco Bay, the rugged and exposed Marin Headlands guard the entry to the bay.  Windblown, peaceful and remote, the Headlands juxtapose the city skyline on the opposite side.   Concrete bunkers peer out from the sage brush, like long weathered boulders, their presence is both in contrast and right at home.   These are remnants of a forgotten era, from a war that never came to pass and offer an opportunity to memorialize and revive this historic landscape and to be reimagined.   A former places of conflict to be transformed , preserving heritage while infusing life and energy in to the heart of the submerged gun battery, symbolically representative of the possibilities of change, renewal and healing.  Weathered by wind, sun and fog; the site holds a sense of resiliency and austerity.   

    An intimate mental refuge, a retreat; in both a physical and experiential sense.  A  shelter to promote and inspire personal renewal, to disconnect, to remove one’s self from the intensity and pressures of daily life and provide a space for quiet reflection and restoration.  In a society obsessed with time and pace; the concept of shifts here, as if hidden in the landscape, the only indication is the change is in the environment, light, shadow, and elements.  Connection with nature as as process to silence the mind and build the spirit, to re-engage a sense of wonder and well-being. Connection within self and others through activities such as yoga, sauna, baths and tea ceremony; reinforcing the idea of ritual and appreciation.

    The progression to and within the sanctuary allows occupants to shed the outside world. A pilgrimage; both in getting to the site as well as within, the interplay of internality and externality upon the participant.  And the idea of this exploration, individual in nature and emphasized by the use of thresholds and materiality.  Concrete, wood, and water heighten the sensory experience acoustically, tactilely, and visually; embodied poetic qualities that engage the senses of all who experience it.  The plan explores the tensions inherent: open areas for communal living; private spaces for solitary retreats; and outdoor expanses for relaxation and reflection. The exchange and integration between man-made and natural, history and present, old and new.  The project is an experiment of light and shadow, space and material, silence and time. The ritualization within helps the participant to focus on the appreciation of the mundane. A celebration of a simple act as a method to offer greater self-awareness, refuge and contemplation. Austerity - in both design and accommodations,  is an essential part of the renewal and purification.

    Opening up the existing battery to allow natural light, air, and the elements to seep inside.  Reinforcing a greater connection to the surrounding context to take place, the architecture allows the site to continue to grow into the building and to be reclaimed the site, becoming an accessible ruin…an occupied artifact.